Super Bowl champs agree to terms with Grbac
Updated: Thursday March 08, 2001 3:29 PM
By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
The defending Super Bowl champions have a new starting quarterback.
The deal includes an $5 million signing bonus, plus a $6 million bonus payable if the Ravens pick up Grbac's March 2002 option for the final three years of the contract. Grbac will receive $5 million upon signing the deal and the remaining $6 million will be paid to him after the second year, providing the Ravens pick up their option for the final three seasons of the deal. Grbac will earn $13 million overall in the first two years of the contract if Baltimore picks up its option.
Grbac replaces Trent Dilfer as the Ravens' starter, less than six weeks after Dilfer led the team to a 34-7 victory in Super Bowl XXXV.
"This allows us to move on and work on other areas of our football team, to improve other areas of our football team," Ravens vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome said. "Now we can try to retain some of our unrestricted free agents.
"This thing just took some hammering, man. They just battled until we came to a number we both could live with."
Grbac is the second high-level free-agent quarterback to come to terms in two days.
Grbac received a new contract offer from Cincinnati on Tuesday morning. The Bengals had announced that they were out of the running for Grbac on Monday evening, but were coaxed back into the picture early Tuesday after talks between Grbac and the Ravens had stalled.
Cincinnati was offering Grbac a contract worth millions more than Baltimore.
"It's a tribute to Elvis and who he is that after eight years in the league he just wanted to play for the Ravens, the Super Bowl champions," Grbac's agent Jim Steiner told CNNSI.com. "He wanted to win so he gave up millions of dollars [from Cincinnati].
"The Bengals did a great job in terms of trying to sign Elvis, but it didn't work out. They were very interested in Elvis and made a new offer this morning. We knew we had choices, but in the end Elvis wanted to play with the Ravens."
The sticking point in the negotiations between Grbac and the Ravens was the amount of money in the first two years of the deal. Specifically, a point of contention was the amount of base salary in the second year, which Baltimore increased to $1.5 million in order to get the deal done. Grbac's first-year base salary is $500,000.
Asked if the Ravens had upgraded their quarterback position as they had hoped to this offseason, Newsome said: "Yes. Elvis is a good athlete. He's got good arm strength and he's a guy who has demonstrated his ability, which fits into Brian's [Billick] offense. He can get the ball down the field and he's also familiar with the West Coast offense that [offensive coordinator] Matt Cavanaugh knows. And that means he can be a high-percentage guy, too."
Newsome said Grbac will sign the deal Thursday in Baltimore and then take part in a news conference at the team's suburban Owings Mills complex.
The Ravens will now turn their attention to their other needs in free agency, namely the offensive line. Former Jacksonville left tackle Leon Searcy will be in Baltimore on Tuesday night and Wednesday. San Diego left tackle Ben Coleman, who played in Jacksonville for five years and Arizona for three, will visit Baltimore on Wednesday night and Thursday. In addition, the Ravens hope to re-sign unrestricted free agent Jeff Mitchell, their starting center.
Grbac and Steiner both showed their willingness to get to Baltimore in the opening days of free agency. Grbac journeyed by train from New York to Baltimore on Friday in a somewhat unusual, unsolicited free-agent visit.
Steiner flew there Saturday for two days of contract talks with the Ravens, again without being asked.
Grbac had a career season for the Chiefs in 2000, throwing for 4,168 yards and 28 touchdowns. Grbac finished with a 89.8 quarterback rating, eighth-best among regular starting quarterbacks last season.
Grbac was released by the Chiefs last Wednesday due to a $10 million roster bonus that would've been due to him in mid-March. The Chiefs and Grbac couldn't come to terms on a new deal that would've reduced Grbac's $16.933 salary-cap figure for the 2001 season.